What is a Notary Public?

A notary public (or notary for short) is a public official who certifies the legitimacy of signatures on important documents.  The notary must verify the identity of the individual who is signing the document.  The notary must also verify that the individual is signing the document of his or her own free will.

The notary may also have to administer an oath, if one is required by the document.  In addition, he or she needs to ensure that all details such as the individual’s name and address included in the document are correct.

Generally, the purpose of a notary is to help eliminate identity theft or fraud that could possibly occur in the course of these transactions and to assure all invested parties that the documents are properly executed.

Why Would I Need a Notary Public?

In order to confirm that documents are legitimate and legally binding, you need a notary public to confirm that any signatures are legitimate.  This is necessary for documents such as mortgages, transfers of sale, and deeds, among others.

How Would I Hire a Notary?

If you go online and search for a local notary, you should find an extensive list.  Notaries can often be found at:

  • Credit unions, banks, and other financial institutions,
  • Courthouse, city hall, or police station,
  • University campuses,
  • Military bases,
  • Hotel business centers, and
  • Shipping companies.

Who Can Be a Notary Public?

While each state has its own regulations regarding certifying notaries, typically any individual over the age of 18 can apply to become a notary by simply filling out a form and paying the required fee.  It is possible that a criminal background check, training, or writing an exam will be required before the individual can become a notary.  While some countries require that a notary must also be an attorney, this is not true in the United States.

How do I Find a Notary if I am Traveling Overseas?

It can be a little more difficult to find a notary public if you are traveling overseas, especially if you do not speak the language.  The first place to start is with an online search.  Otherwise, you might want to try:

  • American embassies and/or consulates,
  • Courthouse, city hall, or police station,
  • Hotel business centers,
  • Military bases, or
  • Attorney offices.

Before going to the expense of hiring a notary while overseas, it is best to check whether a foreign notary will be acceptable back in the United States.

What is the Cost of Using a Notary Public?

The costs tend to vary; however each state has a law restricting the maximum amount a notary public can charge for each signature.  The fees typically range from $5 to $50 for the first signature.  Additional signatures may be charged at a discounted rate, depending on the notary’s policy.

Appointment with a Notary Public

When you meet with the notary public, you should bring along the documents that need to be notarized along with at least one piece of photo identification.  In some instances, the notary must actually witness the individual signing the document, but at other times, the individual may sign the document ahead of time.  If you are not sure, then wait and sign the document when you are with the notary public.  It is a good idea to check with the notary before you meet with him or her to see if there are any additional requirements.

Typically, not all parties have to be present when a document is notarized.  Individuals typically each use their own notary public.  However, it’s a good idea to check what the procedures are within your state.

Most states have laws saying that any notarization must be conducted in person.  So beware of any individuals offering to notarize a document online.  It is also important to realize that any notaries who are not also licensed attorneys cannot offer any legal advice.